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Eggplant Parmesan

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Years ago in Varenna, Italy on Lake Como, I had a wonderful version of eggplant parmigiano. The eggplant had been either fried in olive oil (not breaded) or roasted, and then layed with cheese and tomato sauce. I loved this version as it seemed lighter than the breaded version seen so often.

Do any of you have a recipe for this other version? Is it a Northern Italian thing?

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Years ago in Varenna, Italy on Lake Como, I had a wonderful version of eggplant parmigiano.  The eggplant had been either fried in olive oil (not breaded) or roasted, and then layed with cheese and tomato sauce.  I loved this version as it seemed lighter than the breaded version seen so often.

Do any of you have a recipe for this other version?  Is it a Northern Italian thing?

I've never seen it breaded, maybe floured but usually not. The classic way is to fry the slices in olive oil, but many people nowadays are trying to avoid all that frying, since the slices seem to absorb about a quart of oil each, and prefer grilling or baking the slices.


Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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How about this? My favorite recipe for Eggplant Parmesan. A local chef gave me this recipe several years ago. My notes say it is from Naples.

EGGPLANT PARMESAN

1 1/2 lbs eggplant (or 3 medium-size eggplants)

salt

olive oil

3 1/2 cups tomato sauce

1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

2 TB freshly chopped basil leaves

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Trim and slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch slices. Salt generously and layer into a colander. Cover with a plate and a weight (like a big can of tomatoes). Let drain in the sink or over a bowl for one hour.

When the hour is up, press and dry the eggplant slices between layers of paper towels. Fry them in a generous amount of olive oil until browned on both sides. Drain the slices on paper towels or on a rack.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

To assemble: Spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9" X 12" baking dish. Layer on 1/2 of the eggplant slices, 1/2 of the mozzarella, and 1/2 of the basil. Repeat the layers, starting with the tomato sauce. Finish with the remaining tomato sauce and the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30-40 mins until bubbling. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: The original recipe called for 2 cups of tomato sauce. I like more. I use a 28 oz can of Muir Glen tomato sauce and add in sauteed garlic and sauteed chopped onion (well-cooked). I've also made this recipe substituting zucchini for the eggplant, and that tastes good too. My notes say you can also use fennel and artichokes in this recipe. Enjoy!

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I've done this a few times in the past few months, basically sauteeing the eggplant slices in as little olive oil as i can get away with. It's really gotten fantastic reviews from everyone.

Two other tweaks which seem to complement the lightness: a lot of fresh basil, so for 5 American eggplants (one very packed 9 x 13 pan) I probably used almost a cup of fresh basil leaves. And I use equal parts fontina, mozzarella, and parmesan for the cheeses, sorry I don't have exact measurements.

But I do have a picture of our first tiny test version. The last big version I did was in the normal eggplant parm form factor.

good luck!

+++


Edited by markemorse (log)

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Thanks for the recipes and suggestions. Markmorse, your timbale is gorgeous! How much sauce do you use?

I have eggplant and basil in the garden. I also have crushed tomatoes I canned last summer which I may use to make my own sauce. We're making this tonight!

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Hard to be precise...i would say that you do a couple of quarter-inch thick layers of sauce, alternated with layers of eggplant, cheese, and basil....and a layer of sauce and cheese on top. So many people have asked for the recipe I will definitely document it the next time we do it.

One suggestion though: the timballo looks gorgeous before you cut it, but it quickly turns into a formless pile of carnage, really quite unappetizing. I think it's because eggplant isn't the easiest thing to cut, a knife just kind of demolishes it. So we've decided that from now on it's going to be presented standard, flat, 9 x 13, lunch-lady style, dished out via scooping technology. :wink:


Edited by markemorse (log)

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my amore mio makes egglplant parm

by frying the eggplant and then layers of tomato sauce, parmesan, mozzarella and very thin slices of MORTADELLA.....

.. let me tell you this eggplant parm is the best I've ever had (and I don't even like mortadella!)

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To cut down on the oil, I've made similar versions by taking the sliced eggplant and putting the slices on a silpat lined baking sheet, drizzling them with olive oil and baking in a 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. I then proceed with the layering and baking as in the above recipes. I've also experimented with adding layers of thinly sliced cooked mushrooms and Italian sausage, which also works well.


Edited by rickster (log)

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my amore mio makes egglplant parm

by frying the eggplant and then layers of tomato sauce, parmesan, mozzarella and very thin slices of MORTADELLA.....

.. let me tell you this eggplant parm is the best I've ever had (and I don't even like mortadella!)

:shock:

that sounds incredible!

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I have tried frying both ways: without any batter coating and with a very thin light egg and flour batter. I found that the eggplant sans batter sucks up more total olive oil than the battered eggplant (that doesn't sound right does it? That poor battered eggplant!) The batter absorbs only what it needs to brown, but the uncoated eggplant just keeps on absorbing. The result was that the eggplant w/no coating tasted very oily. The eggplant when coated was far more intense in flavor and perfectly soft without being oily. Using relatively thick slices helps to maximize the vegetable and minimize the oil.

Really just a personal thing, but for me battering has another bonus, which is that it allows for the integrity of the eggplant in the finished dish. It has more structure that way, making it easier and prettier to serve and less like a mushy casserole.

If you are wishing to eliminate the oil and/or the batter I think baking would be a better solution.

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I was told that salting and draining the eggplant slices, then pressing them dry between layers of paper towels cuts down on how much oil the eggplant will absorb. The chef also advised using a generous amt of oil to fry the eggplant--she said the eggplant absorbed less oil that way. I know, I know, it sounds like a contradiction in terms, but that's what she said. The last time I fried eggplant like this (salt, drain, press)--for another recipe last week--the eggplant fried up well and did not seem to absorb much more oil than you would expect from fried food.

Regular plain ol' eggplant slices can absorb a horrendous amt of oil when you fry them. The first time I made eggplant parmesan, so many years ago, I took the dish to a potluck party and I was afraid nobody wd like it because of all the olive oil in it. Nope. No one realized how much oil was in the dish (I certainly wasn't going to say), and they loved the eggplant. Said it was just about the best they had ever tasted. :laugh::laugh:


Edited by djyee100 (log)

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I did forget to mention that i salted and drained my eggplant before sauteeing it, and then lightly pressed and drained it again after I sauteed it....it really did not soak up that much oil, but the post-draining helped a bit i think.

i was focusing on getting a nice brownness to my slices and tried to use just enough oil to where you wouldn't want to call it "toasted eggplant"....

let us know what happens!

+++


Edited by markemorse (log)

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We made a variation of the recipe provided by djyee100 last night. I salted the eggplant slices and let them sit for 30 minutes, then rinsed, patted dry and generously brushed with oil I cooked the eggplant on the grill until well done (I love the crispy skin edges!) For the sauce, I used a jar of home canned crushed tomatoes, added a bit of tomato paste and simmered with the other ingredients.

Everyone loved it - thanks so much for the suggestions! I was especially proud b/c in addition to my home-made foccacia, I either grew or made by hand everything but the cheese.

BTW - I love eggplant fried in olive oil - even though it takes a LOT of oil. My kids both love it. It's a mess though, and I don't make it very often b/c I hate the clean up.

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Glad the recipe turned out well and people liked it. Was the final dish like the eggplant parmesan you ate in Varenna?

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Glad the recipe turned out well and people liked it. Was the final dish like the eggplant parmesan you ate in Varenna?

My husband thought it did. I thought it was close. I probably needed to recreate the setting with a view of Lake Como to complete the dish :laugh:

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Trim and slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch slices. Salt generously and layer into a colander. Cover with a plate and a weight (like a big can of tomatoes). Let drain in the sink or over a bowl for one hour.

When the hour is up, press and dry the eggplant slices between layers of paper towels. Fry them in a generous amount of olive oil until browned on both sides. Drain the slices on paper towels or on a rack.

This is how my family has always made the dish, although we sometimes let the salted eggplant sit longer than an hour. It is fantastico!

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I've made the version given in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which involves broiling the eggplant slices before layering with the sauce and cheese. In fact, I made this for Thanksgiving dinner one year, and it went pretty fast. In fact, I think my aunt's in-laws hold a grudge, because they brought a more traditional version, and everyone liked mine better.


"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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An interesting coupling:

My wife's extensive garden currently is producing an alarming number of eggplants and I received a gas grill a month or so ago.

I brush 3/4" slices of eggplant with olive oil and grill them for a few minutes on each side. Like a charm.

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An interesting coupling:

My wife's extensive garden currently is producing an alarming number of eggplants and I received a gas grill a month or so ago.

I brush 3/4" slices of eggplant with olive oil and grill them for a few minutes on each side. Like a charm.

This is exactly the way I prepare eggplant for Melanzane Parmigiana aka (here) Eggplant Parmesan. It removes the need to presalt and the amount of oil required is minimal. Plus there are the pretty grill lines too!

We used to be able to buy pre grilled, frozen eggplant slices in Italy which was wonderful when in a hurry. So if you have a glut, grill and freeze. :smile:

ETA: I use a griddle pan in winter. A BBQ is not necessary.


Edited by Sentiamo (log)

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And it goes without saying that if I were to mention presalting my wife's eggplants I would need to investigate alternative housing.

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I make a similar dish which I call Summer Eggplant Parmesan. I broil the eggplant slices and layer with sliced garden tomatoes, sauteed peppers and onions with basil. Cover lightly and bake forever, add small amount of cheese at the last minute.


Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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